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Top 20 Countdown: No. 1 Carl Edwards

Jay Busbee
Yahoo Sports

Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports is counting down the top 20 drivers of the 2012 season, as predicted by the Yahoo! Sports NASCAR staff – Jay Hart, Jay Busbee, Nick Bromberg and Geoffrey Miller. The countdown will conclude Feb. 17 with the unveiling of the No. 1 driver.

2011 finish: 2nd

Our 2012 predictions:
• Jay Hart: 2nd
• Jay Busbee: 2nd
• Nick Bromberg: 1st
• Geoffrey Miller: 1st

Crew chief: Bob Osborne

Offseason action: Announced he won't compete in any Nationwide Series races in 2012 unless he feels like a "nervous ball of energy on Saturdays," then he could revisit that decision.

Outlook for 2012: What do you do when you come closer to a championship than any second-place driver in the history of NASCAR? Why, more of the same, of course.

Just months after losing the 2011 Sprint Cup championship in a tiebreaker to Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards kicks off the 2012 season with just about every element of his team already intact and in place. And why not? The season's most consistent driver has every element, and every reason, to keep the momentum going right into 2012. And for that reason, Edwards is Yahoo! Sports' consensus pick to win the 2012 Sprint Cup.

In a way, Edwards was the polar opposite of Tim "All he does is win" Tebow. In 2011, Edwards did everything but win, dominating on virtually every style of track on the circuit. He set a new Chase record with an average finish of 4.9 in the 10 postseason races.

Over the course of the season, Edwards posted 19 top 5s and 26 top 10s. His lone win came at Las Vegas way back in early March. His four poles led the entire series, and his average finish of 9.3 was more than two places better than second-place Kevin Harvick.

To put it in more stark terms: if Edwards had finished one place better at any time during the Chase, he would have won the Cup. One. Place. He's either going to dominate 2012 or vanish into frustrated oblivion. We're going with the former.

Point of interest: Need proof that Edwards is the heir apparent in NASCAR? Take a look at his car this season. The guy is vacuuming up sponsors left and right. Fastenal, Kellogg's Subway, Best Buy, UPS and Aflac will all take turns on the hood of Edwards' car, proof positive that sponsors want their logo on a guy running up front.

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